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Uzodinma’s N55bn roads reconstruction flag-off sparks media backlash

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By Olisemeka Obeche

Imo governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma, has come under barracking from residents of the state following his latest flag-off of reconstruction of Owerri-Orlu and Owerri-Okigwe roads at the cost of N55 billion.

The reconstruction work on the 37 km Owerri-Orlu dual carriage road and 55km Owerri-Okigwe single lane road, awarded to Craneburg Construction Engineering, was flagged off on Monday, amidst cheers from excited people, who gathered at the Banana junction for Orlu road flag-off and Okatankwu in Ikeduru for the Okigwe road.

Governor Uzodinma, who described the two roads as signature projects, expressed frustrations over the dilapidated state of roads in the state and its negative impacts on the lives and economy of the state. He disclosed that when he assumed office in January, 2020, almost all the roads in Imo state were totally broken down.

“There were none to travel on; economic activities were shut down, the system was disorganised and disoriented, worse still, attempt by previous governments to repair them made the situation worst, hence, it became necessary that this administration must recover, reconstruct and rehabilitate Imo state in other to reduce the infrastructural deficit,” he said.

Uzodinma explained that his administration, which had earlier signed a memorandum of understanding with three construction firms, Julius Berger, Dumez and Craneburg, later settled for Craneburg in its bid to get value for money in line with the state procurement act.

“Craneburg gave the most responsive bid as the leadership of the firm underwent proficiency test to establish their strength as a construction giant”, the governor stressed; adding that the government had already paid 15 percent of N55 billion as mobilisation to the company.

The road reconstruction projects, which are expected to be undertaken simultaneously by the same company, has completion deadline of 18 months. Governor Uzodinma assured that the project would be delivered on schedule. He solicited for the cooperation of Imo residents, especially those living along the roads under reconstruction, so that the project will be achieved in record time without unnecessary encumbrances as a result of human interferences.

Meanwhile, Orient Daily findings show that angry reactions have trailed the state government’s road reconstruction flag-off. Governor Uzodinma had come under barracking from a cross section of residents of the state over the choice of the construction firm, the amount it was paying for the job as well as decision to reduce the Owerri-Okigwe road to a single lane, among others.

Fredrick Ogala described the contract cost for the two road projects as exorbitant. According to him, the proposal to spend N55billion on the two roads amounts to an expenditure of about NGN426,356,589.15 per kilometer of road on the entire project. He calculated the N55billion budget on the 37km dual + 55 single. “Let’s 37km x2 = 72km single. Summary 55km single + 72km single = 129km. Cost per kilometer of road = 55b/129k = NGN426,356,589.15 per kilometer of road”, he said.

MaryJane Stephanie also criticised the choice of contractor. With all these billions (of Naira being spent on the project) why not use Julius Berger?”, she queried, while urging the government to avoid spending scarce funds on sub-standard roads.

Solomon Chinemerem questioned the rationale for picking Craneburg Construction Company ahead of other bidders like Julius Berger. “Having seen this old and outdated machine, Craneburg is obviously ‘better than Julius Berger’. It’s quite unfortunate”, he snapped.

Smart Chukwuma Amaefula described the reconstruction of Owerri-Okigwe as single-lane road as waste of public funds. He pleaded with the governor: “We strongly advise you not to waste that huge resources of doing a single lane on Okigwe road. Let it remain as it is now until any reasonable government comes to do it double carriage.

King Solomon argued that “Owerri-Okigwe road is supposed to be a double carriage, not a single road. That road also needs attention more than the Owerri-Orlu road, and Rochas spent billions on the Owerri-Orlu road and it still remains a mess”.

Chimenka Ogbonna condemned the elaborate flag-off ceremony staged by Uzodinma administration, urging residents to hold their applause until the road reconstruction was completed. “Let’s us insist on celebrating commissioning of fully completed projects in Nigeria; our politicians can’t be trusted. Nigerians should be wise enough to shun celebration of flagging off road constructions by politicians, knowing fully well that most of the flag-offs are not fully executed. They’ll start it up and abandon it after “chopping” the money”, he said.

Justin Akubueze agrees: “It is only in my country that people rejoice when government promise them road construction. I mean, why did we elect them? Are they doing it with their own money? Are we supposed to be talking about road construction every six months? Construction of the same constructed roads. We have gone pass the stage of using road construction, constant electricity and water as an agenda for campaigns.

Nwankwo Chigozirim also reacted: That was how you flagged off the same road with then Julius Berger. Up till now, we didn’t see Julius ma ofozikwa Berger. Now, you’re flagging off same road awarded to another foreign company. Wahala for who no know Uzodimma”.

Despite the avalanche of criticisms that trailed the projects’ flag-off, some commentators hailed it as a step in the right direction.  

“You have shown transparency in the government. Sir, we are ready and will always stand firm to work with you sir,” declares Mr Ibe Emmanuel Chukwuebuka.

Another respondent, Austin Thomas, also applauded Governor Uzodinma for the project flag-off, declaring: “This is a good step in the right direction”. 

He, however, urged the government to sign an MOU with the construction company, to employ 60 percent of its workers from the local areas. 

“This will go a long way for our youths, even if it’s labouring jobs… I have worked with a construction company and I know this is how other states do it. They can also teach our youths who are willing to be operators of the machines they will use in the period of the contract. It is also an added advantage”, he stressed.

Kenneth Odemene also backed the governor, describing those condemning the project flag-off as disgruntled political elements engaging in hate speech.  He wrote: “Imolites are becoming the most difficult human beings to govern. They are loaded with hate, envy, pettiness and very unintelligent critics. Must we continue on these mundane parochial interests “the governor is not from my village, therefore, whoever is there now does not qualify and cannot perform better than.”

Henry Kecey Munovin expressed shock over the choice of the contractor; but prayed that the firm would deliver

We were made to believe before now that the reconstruction of the mentioned roads will be handled by Julius Berger. Nevertheless, we pray God to see you through in the projects you have embarked upon for better enabling environment in our dear state.

Kason Nwosu, however, urged Governor Uzodinma to insists on high quality service delivery from the contractor. 

“Please, tell the company to maintain the highest quality. Rochas (Okorocha administration) did not do any quality road, that is why most of the roads he did washed ogf. Do not do low quality road like Rochas did. It is a waste of money.

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